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Life without climbing…at least for now

Climbing has always been part of my life: as a baby I slept in the stroller while my parents climbed in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and later most of our vacations were spent in one of the numerous climbing areas all over Europe. When me and my brother had the choice between hiking and climbing on the weekend, we usually choose climbing, as it meant that we could play instead of going on a “boring hike”. So from an early age on I’m used to spend a lot of time moving outside and on the rocks surrounding me and love it. This scrambling around on the rocks was always playful, not about performance/improving/grades. Our parents never pushed us in any way, they were just happy to share the experience being outside. Maybe one exception: my dad got tired of putting up topropes for me, so he promised me a set of quickdraws for my first 6b on lead :)

 

Even though a big part of my childhood was spent near the rocks, I discovered my own passion for climbing as a (performance-oriented) sport rather late, around 12 years ago. I was asked if I wanted to train with the local youth climbing team and from that day on I’ve been climbing usually four times a week. Even though I spend most of the day doing other things (university, working, friends,…), climbing has been part of every day, every daydream and influencing many of my decisions. Through all these years, I’ve never really been injured, some tweaked fingers or the usual suspect, my right shoulder, but never something which wouldn’t be fine after two weeks rest and taking it easy afterwards.

Right now it’s different story though: I’m in my 5th month without climbing. It started with a strained tendon in the wrist from a weird undercling (which should be fine by now) and more gravely, a bone marrow edema in a wrist bone (lunate). For months I didn’t had a definite diagnosis, I was told it might be just from overuse, could be caused from an intraosseous ganglion/cyst or (worst case) Kienbock’s disease (don’t google that one, trust me).
I should avoid any stress/weight/ on the wrist, which means no climbing/pull-ups/hanging of any kind. At first it wasn’t so bad to stop climbing for a while: no stress with projects/skin/bad weather and a lot more time! Working full-time plus commuting 2 hours a day means I have to organize my days pretty diligently to free some time for climbing.

After a couple of weeks though, my energy levels dropped. I put so much energy in my climbing, but get so much out of it in return! My body and mind are so used to it, I needed something else to replace it. So I did more yoga, running & biking and monkeying around one handed in the gym. Oh well, all fun, but nothing makes me feel as good as climbing… My body misses the movement on rock and my mind misses having goals to work towards. It’s a weird feeling waking up day after day without that familiar soreness from climbing and just as weird going to bed with a crowded mind… Nothing clears up my mind as well as climbing.

I’m generally a very positive person, approaching every problem with the attitude that you could solve this if you think hard enough about it / try hard enough. But with the injury there is nothing I can do about it. Just rest… and wait. And so there were days where I converted to the dark side. The dark side corrupted me with negative thinking and envisioning worst-cases and “what would’ve been if…”. Not really understanding where the injury comes from didn’t help with the trust in my body. Not knowing how long it would take to heal neither…

In the last week the situation changed, as I got a more definite diagnosis: Other examinations showed that the main cause of evil is an intraosseus ganglion grown into the bone, which basically caused a hole in the bone. I will get surgery in a couple of days to fill this hole. So relieved to have a diagnosis that makes sense but on the other hand super bummed to rest for a even more months!


The thought that helps me the most is how many years climbing has been a part of my life and how many more decades it will be. Eight months off in total (if everything heals well) sure sound A LOT, but I have to put them in the perspective of my whole life. Of course then that devilish little voice in my head keeps on telling me: “but you wanted to try this and travel there and do this and learn to do that… When are you gonna do all this?” But as I got older I have realized that I will be never able to fulfill or even try to fulfill all my dreams, even the ones which are in principle realistic. .. Time is limited. On the one hand an unpleasant thought, on the other hand I definitely find it quite comforting that I will never ever run out of dreams, ideas and goals… (Would be kind of sad if that happens, no?) I know that climbing will supply me with enough goals to work for, places to travel and people to meet for more than a lifetime. Some of these will now just have to wait a bit longer…

more footage from the Grampians

Still injured (more on that soon), which means no climbing but more time to edit videos;)

a little clip from the Grampians trip last year! 3 classics which each involve a very hard shoulder move…

On our first day at the Hollow Mountain Cave, we were a bit shocked to find it covered in charcoal graffiti: Presumably left mostly by hikers who wanted to leave a proof that they managed to get up the ‘strenuous hike’ up there. Trying to brush it off made it almost worse though, as it left big black stains. The local climbers suggested first rubbing a carrot, let it dry and then brush it off?!?

On yet another rainy day Andi and Alex made their way up the Hollow Mountain… only to find the cave a cloud, completely wet due to condensation and the fog. Obviously no climbing that day, but the water layer enabled cleaning of the graffity!

Be a good guest in nature and try to leave every place cleaner than you found it:)

Australiaaaaaaaa II

the land of the never ending sandstone…

We’ve been ‘Down Under’ 8 years ago and well remembered the quality of the sandstone and the impressive flora and fauna. It was always a dream of mine to go back there, especially to the Grampians, a National park in northern Victoria. Well, this year tickets were booked and the trip was planned.

On our first day, where we still completely jet lagged barely made our way to the crags, we were blown away by the quality of the rock! I remembered it being very good, but after seeing many different areas around the world in the meantime we realized how amazing it is! Especially considering the proximity of two ‘world-wonders’ of climbing, the Hollow Mountain Cave and the Taipan Wall are, as they are forming a giant ‘amphitheater’. Hiking around on various rest days through the lesser or undeveloped areas of the Grampians (all of the classic areas are concentrated on the very northern tip of the park), we sometimes felt like walking through a museum full of exceptional and unbelievable rock-formations: There is yellow or white smooth rock, very sticky ‘velcro-like’ red rock , ‘spiderweb’-quartz-swiped rock, bright orange overhangs, slopey-HP40-reminiscient boulders, marbled walls, grey shields, ….everything you could dream of and of course studded with amazing crimps, pinches and slopers. The only thing we didn’t find was choss!

This excess supply of amazing rock led to the ‘I-wanna-climb-everything-syndrome’ with me… I had a hard time to decide what to try, especially as climbing days where limited by the wet Australian winter. The first 2 weeks were perfect, with only one rainy day per week. After that this ratio switched to the reverse, with only one dry day a week.

I spent some time working a really cool hard route, but could just not do the first crux move. We even never made the drive to Arapiles, although now back home I could kick myself for not even trying the classic routes there…Some of my personal highlights were the first ascent of ‘In the cloud’ (see http://www.verticallifemag.com.au/2013/10/dorothea-karalus-puts-up-a-v12-in-the-grampians)  and my send of ‘Serpentine’, the probably most famous route on the Taipan Wall. The crux pitch is the second pitch and starts with a quite exposed roof section. The moves are long and I maybe would have complained about them being reachy, if I wouldn’t have had a poster of Lynn Hill hanging on my wall for years. It shows her on that section of Serpentine, wildly cutting her feet. So there was no room to complain, instead just did the same. Maybe “W.W.L.H.D. – What would Lynn Hill do” should be my new mantra? ;) The rest of the route offers  40m of very varied climbing, from delicate stemming, powerful fridge-slapping, crimpy cruxes  to (luckily) good rests. While I was trying to recover at the rests, the sun was going down and the birds went crazy, singing and floating all around me. Topping out Tapain wall was such an awesome feeling!

Other highlights were a send of the gaston testpiece ‘Dead can’t dance’ and ‘Forced Entry’, see below!

Australia I: In the cloud, First Ascent

Here is our first video about our trip to the Grampians in Australia!

Pictures by Andreas Barth/Peter Würth

On our first trip to the wonderful Grampians eight years ago, Andi found and brushed a really cool crimpy shield. He tried it together with Peter Würth, but they couldn’t finish it. Since then no one seems to have stumbled upon this boulder, even if its quite close to some of the established sectors. The boulder has two perfect and very obvious starting holds and follows a beautiful line of very small horizontal crimps with a sequence revolving around a tiny crimp and a gaston flake in the end. It is rare that you find such a pure crimp boulder that is not awkward and sharp! With the exception of the first move all the 5-6 moves are hard and uncompromisingly powerful: I tried various drop-knee variants, but the footholds are just too sparse and bad for that. It took us several days to figure out a method, but even after having done all moves isolated, I was rather unhopeful about linking them, especially the third move felt impossible from the bottom. Also we soon realized that its quite tricky to get good conditions for this problem as it faces the sun pretty much all day. On cloudy days attempts were usually thwarted by rain showers, so we resorted to night sessions. I made slow but steady progress and one dry evening I managed to stick the crux third move from the bottom only to fall going to the gaston! Nervously I rested for a bit, managed to stay calm and did the probably first ascent the same night!

As it took me waaayyyyy longer than any crimpy 8a I’ve done, I suggest a grade of 8a+/V12. Here is the video, make sure you watch in HD to get the full kangaroo experience;)

For the lucky people in the area: ‘In the Cloud’ is located only a couple hundred meters from the Gulgurn Manja Shelter back towards the Hollow Mountain carpark.

More videos and a longer trip report soon!

Fontainebleau 2013

Since Andi and I have rediscovered Fontainebleau as one of our favorite places in 2009, we climbed on the historic sandstone boulders every March when winter was over and usually a streak of dry weather arrived. This year the weather gods seem to be a bit confused, though, and after a pretty miserable fall and a dark winter came an almost non-existent spring with lots of rain. So after coming home from Switzerland we eagerly waited for our yearly Font trip to happen, but it just rained and rained and rained…. In the end we had already settled for another trip to Ticino, when we checked the forecast one last time. It looked slightly better all of a sudden and so we instantly decided to do another voyage à Fontainebleau!

Our prayers must’ve been heard and we had perfect weather for two weeks, maybe even the best conditions we ever had there! Climbing-wise, we both had our ups and downs… One memorable evening was spent in Buthiers: Really sore from the day before, I had planned to rest that day. Tempted by the cold temperatures, I wanted to have a look on ‘Misanthropie’, a high crimpy face, that I briefly tried and deemed impossible on a warm day last year. Well, ‘feeling the holds’ turned into ‘trying the moves’… and a while later I found myself on top :) Andi managed to get an ascent of ‘Partage’, the most beautiful arête in the forest and climbed many classics like ‘L’Angle parfait’, which I was too chicken-hearted for. But I’ll be back! Next to settling some old scores like ‘L’Angle Bens’ and ‘Excalibur’ I put the great conditions to good use on the slopy ‘Papillon’, a well-hidden prow in a nice area called Petit Reine.

We both ‘failed’ on our main project for the trip: Andi felt close on Duel, but had to give up when he found it dripping wet on the last day. Lucky me even got another chance to try my project. It was supposed to rain more that day and conditions were rather mediocre. Just when I sat down for my last attempt, the wind picked up and the holds suddenly felt grippy. I fluidly moved through the crux, even omitting an intermediate hold. After the crux waited some bigger holds and one more insecure move. Hanging on the better holds I suddenly got nervous. I managed to do the insecure move, but then my brain shut off and I forgot my beta. Instead of fighting, I eratically tried different footholds and then…. dropped off! A bit later the first raindrops started to fall. As angry as I was at myself the next minutes, in retrospective I think it was a good reminder for myself to always a) know my beta for the topout and b) try as hard as I really can!

pictures by Manuel Brunn, Andreas Barth & me

Gold Dayzzz in Ticino

Many days with perfect sunny weather, good friends and a lot of fun playing on rocks…that’s how the last weeks in Ticino can be summarized… read a summary about the first part of the trip here: http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=67846.

To be honest, we also had more than our fair share of days with really bad weather and spent many days shoveling snow and trying to dry the boulders…But the sunny days are the ones to remember! Here is a little video we made, featuring amongst others Andi’s 3rd ascent of ‘Heritage’, 8B+ and Brionesque (watch out for my unintended stunt scene…) and my first ascent of Piatto Piedi!

[problem list in video: Piatto Piedi, La Brionesque, I Portici, Heritage, Marylin Monroe]

some comments about the harder things I climbed:
Sun Ichiban, 8A: small cave with perfect rock and fun moves, suited me well. Found smarter beta than the FAionist, but started a couple moves lower

Dreams are full of maybies, 8A: cool crimpy shield, hard foot move.

Marilyn Monroe, 8A: definitely on the ‘lifetime-ticklist’. Tried this on and off over the last years, but couldn’t do the shoulder move at the end. There are other betas for this problem, but I stubbornly wanted to do this the original way/the way I first tried it. You can’t imagine how excited I was when finally did this move this year! Very happy to gotten stronger and/or a better climber…Linking the whole problem turned still out to be quite hard, as the first moves are at my full extension. Its one of those problems where you wish that you could ‘shrink’ it a little bit, so that all the holds and footholds are just a few centimeters closer together.

Frank’s wild years, 8A: my love-hate affair with Frankie finally has a lucky ending:) One of those problems where you do not understand that its so hard, but you still can’t get it up…hence a classic Cresciano problem;)

Piatto Piedi (aka The Sonierto Slab), 8A?: Featured in the classic climbing movie Dosage 4, where Courtney Hemphill comes very close to sending and takes some scary falls from high up. Its one of the most impressive slab lines I’ve ever seen and sits in a beautiful picturesque surrounding, just next to ‘Kings of Sonierto’ and ‘Off the Wagon’. I found a really nice sequence and luckily did not take a fall from the top:) To my knowledge, nobody else has done it before (please correct me if I’m wrong), so it might be a first ascent. As it took me roughly the same amount of time like the classic Fontainebleau slab ‘Duel’ (though it climbs quite differently), I would estimate the difficulty to be in the same range. That is VERY difficult to say though, as its even less powerful than Duel; there is not a single move that is physically hard. Just very sustained, insecure, technical climbing on bad footholds. On the whole climb you are never standing in a relaxed position, as I could only weight the footholds for a few second before they would start slipping. You really have to be focused and stay calm until the very (high) top, where without a handhold that deserves that name I had to stretch/tiptoe on a smeary foot to be just able to reach an edge, which you can use to jump to the rescuing top lip. Whatever the difficulty might be, its definitely one of my favorite problems ever and one I’m really proud of! See the ascent in the video above:)


A note to the access: The boulders mentioned above are just next to a peaceful little village and a meadow, which in spring/summer is used to make hay. So if you visit the valley, please stay on the hiking trails, keep away from the pastures and the cows and talk to the villagers&farmers if its ok to climb there at the moment!

I Portici, 8A+: A newer Fred Nicole problem, whom I’m just gonna quote here: ”A really nice line that follows an arete, very technical. The first part is the hardest with powerful moves on slopers&pinches. The second part features more athletic climbing on far apart but good holds. une belle surprise!” Apart from the very physical and athletic climbing I personally found it hard to have cold enough skin for the very friction dependent first part, but be warmed up enough for the second part and the slightly scary top. It climbs so well, its definitely one of the best in Ticino! Also featured in the video above…!

Apollo, 8A: fun little problem with a tricky heelhook, which I don’t think is 8a+…

2012 review

check out a review of my climbing year 2012 at monkeeeeeeeeee… http://monkeeclothing.com/blog/entries/231

If you are too lazy to read… here is a summary in pictures:

spring in Fontainebleau:

summer in the Frankenjura:

autumn:

winter in Ticino:

Rock Art…

the beauty of nature… a welcome excuse to browse through my harddisk and reminiscence about past travels on yet another rainy sunday…:)

Headcrash, 8c

Projecting a hard route or boulder can be nerve-wracking and sometimes frustrating. For me, the most fun part of this process is usually the beginning, where you start figuring out the moves and try to find a solution that works for you. Doing new moves is always fun and especially the realization that you may be capable of doing a problem is quite motivating. In the next phase, you start trying to link the moves and try to work towards an eventual send. If you make progress, this is a lot of fun. With stagnation I sometimes struggle to keep the motivation up. Which is probably I climbed most of my harder problems in a few days and failed on everything I tried longer…:)

I have friends who don’t care about sending things at all and who get their satisfaction solely from trying new things. I think this is really admirable and in the last years my motivation for climbing has definitely shifted from a goal-oriented to a more process-oriented approach. After all, even if you don’t send anything, if you always had a nice day outside you are a very happy person. Once in a while I still try to stick with projects, as it is a great challenge to stay motivated in a good way. Learning how to be happy even with the smallest progress, learning how to deal with failure, evaluating what to change…it’s a bit like a research project really;)

Sometimes, projecting can be easy though. This year, after a very cool trip to Fontainebleau my motivation for bouldering was dwindling. By chance I ended up on a rope climbing crag called ‘Wasserstein’, whose central pillar is home to one of the most impressive lines of the Frankenjura, ‘Headcrash’. From the first day, I was blown away not only by the beauty of the line but also the quality of the climbing. Especially the upper part of the route climbs incredibly well, though with my non-existent endurance -this was my first day on a rope this year- I could hardly make it from bolt to bolt. The crux is lower down, after about a third of the route: An uncompromising bouldery crux consisting of only two moves revolving around a barely-there shallow pinch.
Since I had never tried such a difficult route, I could not assess whether there was any prospect of success. Thus, the ‘strategy’ was to continue trying as long as it’s fun, without any expectations. At first the progress was quite slow; it took me several days to do the first crux move and to link the upper part. After a few days (I didn’t count how many), I climbed through the crux for the first time from the start. On each of the following moves, I waited for my elbows to go into ‘chicken wing-mode’…but surprisingly I didn’t get pumped and climbed to the top!

So I could climb my by far most difficult route (my hardest route before Headcrash was an easy 8b…) … without any drama… which makes this success even more valuable for me:)

Thanks to everyone who was there with me for the great time at this peaceful spot!

 

Writing my master`s thesis …. at Fontainebleau:)

Partage!

Partage!

Fontainebleau has always been one of my favorite (if not THE favorite) areas. The climbing style there is so special though, that I always need some time to get reacquainted with the subtleties of the movements and the rock. All previous trips had been rather short, and at the end of each two-week long trip I always felt that I just started to understand…
So when it was time to write my master`s thesis I had the brilliant (or crazy?) idea to write it during a prolonged trip to Fontainebleau…I rented a small caravan on a campground, accumulated my data and material for my thesis and drove to font. As it’s neither productive to sit at the desk all day nor to climb all day, my plan worked quite well. I busily typed in the mornings and evenings and climbed during the day. Though it sometimes costed a moment’s effort to get back to work while everyone else was enjoying le vin rouge after a climbing day…

After five weeks, my thesis was finished and I had climbed a lot. You don`t necessarily get  twice as much done if you spend the 5 weeks instead of 2.5 there, but I`d like to think that I learned twice as much:)  I also settled some old scores, like my long-term-project “l’angle à Jean-Luc” (red #25 at Roche aux Sabots) and the neighboring “à l’impossible nul n’est tenu” (my first 7a slab…). Each trip I’m amazed by the small line between impossible and doing a problem. In other areas, you can often just power through sequences but in Fontainebleau, moves often feel impossible if you don’t find the perfect body position. But if you do it right, it suddenly feels easy, maybe even easier for a certain grade than in other areas. These rare moments, where it clicks and every move feels easy makes me come back to Fontainebleau every year…and that these moments are so rare makes them even more special:)

This trip the weather was quite summerly and warm for several weeks, which was good for working at my desk but not so much for climbing. That’s why I started doing circuits and I was really amazed how much fun that is! I always had climbed a lot of easy problems, but never a full circuit, always dismissing it as too skin-intensive and strenuous. This time I was persuaded and was instantly hooked!  Highly recommendable, you shouldn`t miss this on a trip to font…

One particular goal I had in my mind before the trip was to try ‘Partage’. This stunning arête looks beautiful and requires a perfect mixture of power and technique. I found a good method for the upper moves, so that the hardest part was the start. You do a big move to a bad pinch and then you somehow have to shift your center of gravity to the other side of the arête.  It took me a while to understand the movement (and to get strong enough to do it). As the climb is quite friction-dependent, the increasing temperatures demanded increasingly earlier morning sessions… But it was worth it:)

I`m already looking forward to the next trip to Fontainebleau! Jusqu’à la prochaine fois dans la forêt!

Pictures: A. Barth, F. &. M. Christof, N. Korff, merci beaucoup:)

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